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MERC Al Attiyah heads top class entry in UAE Rally

2006 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1 of 8

For immediate release
Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

DEFENDING CHAMPION AL-ATTIYAH HEADS TOP
CLASS ENTRY INTO UAE INTERNATIONAL RALLY

UAE's Al-Qassimi brothers looking for winning championship start;
UAE's Suhail Bin Khalifa relishes new challenge in new car

AL AIN (UAE): Defending FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and 2004 champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi led an international line-up of 27 cars into the start of the ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally, being held under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior, on Wednesday afternoon.

Following a noon press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Al-Ain, which was attended by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the Chairman of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates, Ibrahim Al-Marzouki of ADNOC Distribution and several of the leading drivers taking part in the event, teams crossed the start podium and tackled a five-kilometre spectator stage near the centre of Al-Ain.

~I would like to thank the city of Al-Ain and all our sponsors for their support in enabling us to put on this event again,~ said Ben Sulayem. ~It promises to be a very exciting weekend's competition.~

~It is with great pleasure that ADNOC Distribution is again a major supporter of the UAE International Rally,~ said Ibrahim Al-Marzouki of ADNOC Distribution. ~This is a well organised rally and again the organisers have attracted a very strong field of drivers. We wish everyone success on the special stages.~

Competitors from the UAE, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UK, Qatar, Bahrain and Ireland will take part this weekend, but the recent Dubai Rally winner Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is one of the favourites.

~We carried out two days of recce of the special stages and each day will be so different,~ said Al-Qassimi, driving a Prodrive-built Subaru Impreza with support from Pirelli. ~The first day's stages around Sweihan are so fast. On some of them you really need a seventh gear to be competitive. There are many long straights and square junctions. The stages on Friday will be a little more technical and more of a challenge.~

Khalid's brother Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi has been getting used to his new car in recent days. ~We had made good progress with the Mitsubishi and it was becoming competitive,~ said Sheikh Abdullah, before making the switch to a Subaru. ~But we drove the Subaru in a test and it is very forgiving. I would not say it has the power of our other car, but it is easier to drive quickly and feels more at home at speed. I am looking forward to the rally and feel confident that we can set some very good times.~

Arch rival Al-Attiyah arrived in the UAE on Monday morning, fresh from taking six P-WRC Championship points in the Monte Carlo Rally. ~It has been a very busy four weeks,~ said the Qatari, who won seven of the eight rounds of the series in 2005. ~I completed half of the Dakar Rally and then went straight to Monte Carlo to prepare for that race. We have gone from the Sahara to the ice and snow of the Col de Turini and back to the deserts again in the space of three weeks. The firm plan here is to win though and take 10 points.~

The UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum has also invested in a new Prodrive-built Subaru for the start of a season he hopes will take him on to further success. The car will be managed in Al-Ain by Irishman Gary Emmett, who is also overseeing the exploits of Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban, returning to the series after missing the latter half of last season.

Two days of desert special stages begin in the Sweihan region on Thursday morning, with the first of two days of six timed sections. The finish podium will take place at the Hilton Hotel in Al-Ain on Friday afternoon.

Additional support for the 2006 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally comes from Finance House, the Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau, Sky Electronic Line, AMD for computers, Gulf Commercial Group for photocopiers, Emirates Computers for Nokia telephones and GTS Towing Services.

RESULTS OF SUPER SPECIAL STAGE TO FOLLOW LATER ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON......

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, UAE International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Media Centre, Hilton Hotel, Al-Ain, UAE, Tel: + 971 3 7686396, Fax: + 971 3 7686323 and UAE mobile + 971 (050) 3616881 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and
Atala Abusaleh, UAE International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 25/01/2006

For further information or assistance please contact:

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